Monthly Archives: April 2012

Jeanty reflects on Haiti two years later

Jeanty family by Bruce Stambaugh

The Jeanty family: Fritz, Mamie, Benjamin, Samuel and Glory


By Bruce Stambaugh

For the second time in two years, Fritz Jeanty and his family are back in Millersburg, Ohio. They are refugees from the devastating earthquake that hit Port-au-Prince, Haiti, January 12, 2010.

Fritz remembers the exact time the huge earthquake hit, 4:45 p.m. He was there among all the horror and destruction, desperately trying to return to his family. He eventually made it home all right, and his wife, Mamie, and two sons were badly shaken but otherwise fine. Other family members weren’t as fortunate.

Using his basic survival instincts and his canny astuteness to save phone numbers, Fritz was able to make connections to come to the United States. After a harrowing trip to Florida, Fritz and his family eventually ended up in Millersburg.

With the help of many people and local organizations, the Jeantys settled in to life here. Fritz, unable to legally work under the terms of his visa, spent his time volunteering at Save and Serve Thrift Shop in Millersburg.

Fritz was antsy to return to his home country, however. After much planning, he and his family returned to the impoverished island country January 26, 2011. He was full of hope. Fritz wanted to rebuild their home, start a new business based on his Save and Serve experience, and rejoin friends and family.

What the Jeanty family found upon return was excruciatingly familiar. The devastation that Fritz saw initially was still there.

“Nothing had changed,” Fritz said, his brown eyes in deep reflection.

The rubble was everywhere. He said only the non-governmental organizations (NGO) were making any progress, and that there weren’t enough of them.

“People still live in tents,” Fritz said. In fact, the city was even more populated than after the earthquake that killed 300,000.

“People from the country heard there was food and housing in the city,” Fritz said. Neither was true, but the people remained, complicating an already problematic situation.

Fritz’ dream was to establish a used clothing store similar to Save and Serve. That proved unfeasible. He sold two loads of clothes he had obtained, but had little to show for his efforts.

“There were no jobs,” Fritz said. “People didn’t have money.”

The first three weeks Fritz and his family stayed with friends until they could get their heavily damaged home temporarily livable. The goal was to reconstruct their home adjacent to their destroyed one.

A retaining wall had been previously constructed. Fritz built one room in which the entire family lived. A few months later, he added a kitchen. Christian Aid Ministries, headquartered in Berlin, Ohio, helped with the cleanup of the house. Other Holmes County churches, organizations and individuals assisted the family financially.

They still didn’t have running water. Electrical power was erratic at best, being available only on an average of eight hours a day.

Besides the lack of jobs and housing, there were other social problems that permeated Haitian society, too, according to Fritz.

The crime was the worst. The Jeanty family fell victim to that like so many others had there. During the night, hoodlums locked the Jeanty family in their own house, and stole the battery out of Fritz’ vehicle, and vandalized it.

Their house was burglarized after they left for Millersburg in January, too. Fritz said robberies and murders had increased exponentially.

“There were about 100 murders every three months,” Fritz said forlornly.

Another problem in Haiti has been the ongoing cholera outbreak. With Mamie pregnant with their third child, and proper medical care scarce, Fritz realized he had to do something. With another visa, he returned his family to the familiar and much safer surroundings of Millersburg January 18.

Because Mamie had had difficulties in previous pregnancies, Fritz didn’t want to take any chances. Happily, their first daughter, Glory Jeanty, was born healthy and well March 23 at Aultman Orrville Hospital.

The Jeanty family is again being supported by donations from local groups and individuals. They live in a home owned by the church they attend, Millersburg Mennonite. Their six-month visa expires July 17 with their future uncertain after that date.

© 2012 Bruce Stambaugh
This story appears on http://www.holmesbargainhunter.com/.

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Keep on the sunny side of life no matter what

Sunset rays by Bruce Stambaugh
By Bruce Stambaugh

In this dog eat dog world of ours, it’s easy to get down on others and yourself. I’m much too guilty of that. Just ask my wife.

An email from a friend reminded me of that the other day. My friend, a man 14 years my senior, three decades ago survived a serious illness and now is in a pitched battle against lymphoma.

If anyone had a reason to be down, he did. Yet, he wasn’t. He has had a very successful life, one filled with both professional and personal achievements, most in service to others.

My friend wrote this email in reference to celebrating spring, the newness of life that is bursting forth all around us here in the northern hemisphere. He gratefully reflected on the lovely spring day on which he arrived home after his near brush with death 27 years ago.
Dogwood blossoms by Bruce Stambaugh
He championed the simplest things, a blooming flower, the green grass, a whiff of a refreshing scent, a tender touch of a loved one, and how we all are interconnected to all that is around us. His concluding comment of gratitude was, “And I almost missed this.”

I immediately replied by thanking him for the reminder to celebrate life in the present. We can’t change the past, and we can’t control the future. We can be positive in each and every opportunity in which we find ourselves daily.

Cockeyed optimist or bully pulpit preaching? Perhaps. But consider the alternative, a life of grumpy complaining that dulls everyone’s spirits. What fun is there in that? My friend’s note was looking life right in the eye and saying I’m glad to be here. We were all glad he was, too, and still are for that matter.

When I read that brief message, the song, “Keep on the sunny side of life,” instantly came to mind. Now, I’m no singer, but I like that song for its lyrics and its meaning. Stay positive. Life can be a bummer at times. Hardly anyone could deny that.
Spring Beauties by Bruce Stambaugh
With the temperatures warming, the grass growing, the leaves unfurling, the flowers blooming, some birds already feeding their young, and the ability to be out and about without fear of frostbite, it’s simply great to be alive.

I know times are tough for many, especially financially. There is too much illness in the world, too much injustice, too many wars, too much hatred. Yet, we are alive, and we can do something about all that if we put our mind and energy to whatever productive cause we support to help counter those woes.

I need to take on the spirit of my friend. Live life fully, completely, honestly, purely, truly, compassionately, thankfully. To do otherwise is a simple waste of the precious time we have left on this earth.
Workhorses by Bruce Stambaugh
A long time ago a lady called a school superintendent’s office. It was a miserable, cold and rainy day, and the woman was notorious for complaining. The superintendent took the call anyhow. He answered cheerfully by saying, “Good morning. It’s a beautiful day to be alive, isn’t it?”

When the lady recoiled at the positive greeting and asked how the school official could be so upbeat, he simply replied, “It sure beats the alternative.”

Yes, it does. I hope you can keep on the sunny side of life today, even if you are in the midst of a personal storm.
Wildflowers by Bruce Stambaugh
© 2012 Bruce Stambaugh

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Minding our Ps and Qs, 21st century style

Williamsburg VA by Bruce Stambaugh
By Bruce Stambaugh

I couldn’t help but sense the irony and wonder in it all. My wife and I were visiting my older brother and his wife near Williamsburg, Virginia.

We all were enjoying a pleasant spring evening on the back porch of their lovely home. My wife was using her iPhone. My sister-in-law toyed with her iPad. My brother and I each were surfing around on our MacBook Pro laptops.

The evening was dark and still, except for the occasional distant rumble of thunder. The only light on the porch was the glow from the screens of our electronic gizmos.

My brother and sister-in-law own a lovely home just minutes away from Colonial Williamsburg. Founded in 1654, Williamsburg played a significant role in the development of our country to say the least.
Williamsburg home by Bruce Stambaugh
We had spent the heart of the day walking the streets of the historic town. If you have never been there, it’s a bucket list kind of place, beautifully restored and maintained with lots to do for children and adults alike.

Williamsburg actor by Bruce StambaughEven though I had visited Williamsburg before, I again thrilled at just the thought of strolling the same streets that a young Thomas Jefferson once did. With so many guides and actors dressed in period attire, it was easy to imagine being back in time.

Plush carriages pulled along by noble teams of horses plied the once muddy streets, now paved for the comfort of the tourists and the convenience of the staff. The night before we had enjoyed a delicious meal in Shields Tavern, where we were careful to mind our Ps and Qs.

That old saying, still heard today, could very well have had Williamsburg roots. In those days, a tavern’s bartender simply kept a chalkboard ledger of what customers consumed. If they drank a pint, a P was lettered under their name. If a quart, then a Q was marked. At evening’s end, the bill was tabulated and the customers properly minded their Ps and Qs by paying their bill. Today it simply means to take care of your own business.
Williamsburg carriage by Bruce Stambaugh
As the four of us sat quietly on the darkened porch, we could have been minding our own Ps and Qs by paying our bills online. With the rumbling thunderstorms growing closer, it seemed a bit surreal using our 21st century technology to check in with the world while sitting in the shadow of a bygone era. The town crier was definitely no longer needed to announce the time.

I thought about other familiar sayings we utter without knowing their origin. We derisively chatter about big wigs without contemplating the phrase’s original meaning. For the record, “big wigs” came from the 17th century society custom of wealthy people wearing expensive wigs made of human hair. The taller the wig, the more aristocratic you were.
Williamsburg hats by Bruce Stambaugh
You could say we went the whole nine yards at Williamsburg. That reference was attributed to a bolt of fabric, which equaled nine yards. Clearly I enjoy linking the past with the present.

As the line of storms hit our area, it rained cats and dogs, but not long. Even well before colonial times, superstitious persons believed cats symbolized the rain and dogs the wind; thus, the saying.

Back on the porch, we powered down for the night, thankful for both the generous hospitality and the opportunity to reconnect with the origins of our democracy. I wondered if somewhere, someplace Thomas Jefferson and Steve Jobs were both smiling.Williamsburg wisteria by Bruce Stambaugh

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Celebrate all of spring’s colors, trees included

Red roof barn by Bruce Stambaugh
By Bruce Stambaugh

I feel a touch sorry for the budding leaves of the many varieties of deciduous trees. My sympathetic compassion isn’t confined to the recent series of frosty morning temperatures either.

As my wife and I drove home from Virginia’s beautiful Shenandoah Valley after visiting our daughter and her family, we were in awe of the rainbow of colors that exploded before us at every turn. Traversing the old wrinkled mountains of Virginia and West Virginia, there are more turns and twists than in a pretzel factory. In the spring, the mountains are loaded with colors.
Redbuds by Bruce Stambaugh
The most obvious were the amazing redbud trees, which were in full bloom, a lavender testimony to spring’s arrival. Against the dull gray, brown and black trunks of towering oaks, maples, wild cherry and ash, the diminutive redbuds’ beautiful blooms radiated glory on the steep hillsides.

We drove for miles and occasionally only saw a loner blooming as robustly as it could, like a child demanding adult attention. Without warning we would round a corner or top another hill and a burst of redbuds greeted us on both sides of the highway, as if a purple curtain had been drawn for us to pass.

As much as I appreciated that kindness, I couldn’t help but notice streaks and blotches of background colors, more muted, but rich nonetheless. After months of dormancy, the leafy buds of stately hardwoods were just beginning to unfurl.

Though subdued and understated, they too added to nature’s ever-changing paint palette. Hints of lemon, lime, russet, auburn, scarlet, gold, orange and brown were bursting forth. At wood’s edge, the branches reached out from top to bottom. At the thick forest canopy, the trees stood as freshly dabbed artists’ bristles awaiting application to canvas.
Budding trees by Bruce Stambaugh
In the valleys, the dogwoods and wild apples were beginning to compete with the redbuds. They added a lacy texture to the purple hue where the species cohabitated. In towns and villages, ornamentals were well ahead of schedule in blooming their reds, whites and crimsons.

The further north we drove the trees and flowers were less showy, but still emerging. Buttery daffodils and jonquils were in various stages along our route, from dying in Virginia to perfect bloom in Ohio. Every now and then, congregations of coltsfoot and dwarf dandelions lined either side of the road brighter than the yellow centerline striping.
Dwarf dandelions by Bruce Stambaugh
The flowers of spring get photographed, picked, and adorn coffee tables, bringing the outside inside. The unfolding leaves, rich in their own hues, tend to take a back seat to the flora extravaganza. For me, that’s the injustice.

It’s the fall when people generally start to pay attention to the kaleidoscope of colorful leaves. It was intriguing that these emerging spring beauties mimicked the same colors exhibited in the fall.

Just like autumn, the spring’s natural art display will disappear all too quickly. Only instead of falling, the leaves magically transform to various shades of green.

I was fearful these picturesque landscapes would go unnoticed or even unappreciated. I need not have worried.

When friends of ours arrived for a visit shortly after we returned, they proclaimed, “Did you see the leaves coming out? It looks like fall.” Yes indeed it does.

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Connecting the dots in unexpected ways

By Bruce Stambaugh

Life has a way of connecting dots in unexpected ways.

Nearly three weeks ago, our two-year-old granddaughter became ill. Her mother, our daughter, took her to the doctor on back-to-back days.

Maren by Bruce StambaughUnsure of the problem, the doctor thought it best if Maren were hospitalized for observation and tests. It was to be an overnight stay. When her fever didn’t subside, and the tests proved inconclusive, another night in the hospital was needed. Of course, we stayed in close contact with our daughter, albeit long distance via emails, text messages and occasional phone calls.

When Nana heard the news that Maren was to spend a second night in the hospital, her helper mode ratcheted into high gear. Nana hastily threw together her traveling items and headed to Harrisonburg, Virginia, where our daughter and her family reside.

I stayed behind. I had long-scheduled doctor appointments, meetings that convened only monthly, and other community commitments. Besides, I believe that too many adults in the same household at the same time can be, well, sometimes touchy, especially with youngsters.

The situation with Maren grew worse. She was transferred to a noted children’s hospital for further examination. Nana took care of our two grandsons while our daughter and her husband watched over sweet Maren.

Of course I was anxious to join them. We had previously planned on leaving for a weeklong visit with the grandkids anyhow. Maren’s illness just bumped up the trip’s urgency. But I didn’t necessarily want to have two vehicles 350 miles from home if we could help it.

Arriving home by Bruce Stambaugh

It was nice to have Maren arrive home, even though she was tired and peaked.

Being the workhorse that she is, Nana kept busy with household chores in Virginia. When the recycling piled up, she decided to take it to the recycling center. One other person was there, a middle-aged man who noticed Nana’s Ohio license plates.

The man said that he used to live in Ohio, Kidron to be exact, 12 miles from our house. The assertive person that she is, Nana asked this nice person if he happened to know of anyone coming down to Harrisonburg from Ohio on Sunday afternoon.

To her astonishment, and mine once she told me the story, the man replied that indeed he and his wife were visiting in Kidron, Ohio that very weekend and would be returning on Sunday afternoon, the exact time I had wanted to leave. He said he would be glad to have me ride along if I could find a way to Kidron.

As it turned out, my ride and I discovered we had mutual friends who lived near Kidron and who just happen to attend church with us. Our friends shuttled me to the rendezvous with this charitable couple. Like clockwork, we met up and transferred all my belongings I needed for the extended stay in Virginia from my friends’ car to my new friends’ car.

Given all the mental stress I was under, I was relieved to have someone else do the driving down the winding path to the

Feeling better by Bruce Stambaugh

Maren was glad to be home, playing and active as her strength would allow.

Shenandoah Valley. He proved an excellent driver, and delivered me right to my daughter’s door. It couldn’t have worked out better. The next day, Maren returned home, having been diagnosed with a perforated appendix, a difficult and unusual illness for a toddler.

Thanks to a common household errand and the interchange of two gregarious strangers, I got to welcome Maren and my daughter home. I am exceedingly glad those two divergent dots got connected.

This column appears weekly in the Holmes Bargain Hunter.

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The Very Inspiring Blogger Award bestowed and humbly accepted

By Bruce Stambaugh

One of the primary reasons I write is to inspire others. I enjoy writing about the everyday experiences of life, weather, history, human interaction, nature, and genuine kindness. I also enjoy illustrating my blog posts with appropriate pictures that I have taken, and am glad when comments are made about those as well.
Very Inspiring Blogger Award
When Sandra Madeira nominated me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award, I was greatly honored. Thank you, Sandra. Nearly a year ago, Sandra embarked on a mission of her own, posting a daily writing tip. I have been following her writings from the other side of the big pond in London all year. Other than the crazy English spellings, like colour, realise and practise, I have found her offerings insightful, and inspiring, especially since she works fulltime and has a family to care for. She definitely deserved the award.

In addition to thanking the giver of the Very Inspiring Blogger Award, I also have to tell you seven random facts about me. This must be the bureaucratic part of the award. In no particular order, they are:

1. I always wanted to play third base for the Cleveland Indians.
2. Failing at that, the best I could do is buy tickets on the third base side of Progressive Field.
3. I do the severe weather spotting for the National Weather Service for where I live, which is in the middle of the world’s largest Amish population in Holmes County, Ohio.
4. Our house is built on an Amish farm.
5. I’m Mennonite, not Amish. They’re the ones with the beards. Oh, wait. I have a beard. Never mind.
6. I was a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician for 27 years in our rural county.
7. When I was young, I had long, blonde, curly hair. Look at me now.

The other element in accepting this fine award is that I get to nominate seven other bloggers for the same award. Again, in no particular order, they are:

Claire inspires through her amazing urban photography, spontaneous, real and truly inspiring.

Check out her blog, and you’ll see just how inspiring Carley Evans is.

I’ll put the disclaimer right up front. Mic Miller is a friend of mine. Nevertheless, I think you’ll find his insightful comments and photography very inspiring.

Inspiring pretty well states the purpose of Karen Chandler’s blog.

Kerry Leibowtiz’s photographs will take your breath away.

If Matt Posky’s commentary and drawings don’t inspire you, they’ll at least make you think.

Babak is a student studying in Amsterdam. Given his interests shared on his posts, you’ll find inspiration in many forms. To make that point, he was recently Freshly Pressed by WordPress.com, and that certainly is a good thing.

Check them all out, and thanks, again, to Sandra for thinking of me.

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